The Principles of Self-realization
As we take a close look at the vast spectrum of methods of self-realization such as Qigong, Yoga, Kung fu, etc., we may notice a great deal of styles and schools. Historically, they developed mostly along the lines of different philosophical and spiritual traditions in the pursuit of embodiment of their respective teachings. Take Qigong for an example. It has been around for over six thousand years (some anthropologists argue even seven thousand) Following the creation of Eastern religions about twenty five hundred years ago, Qigong eventually developed into six distinctive branches: Buddhist Qigong, Taoist Qigong, Tantric Qigong, Confucian Qigong, Medical Qigong, and Martial Qigong. Most of the branches were organized by and for the followers of one belief system or another. The adepts of certain schools of thought in ancient China, Tibet and Korea originated even such secular branches as Martial Art and Medical Qigong.
Predating all the organized religions and schools, there had existed an even older spiritual tradition that served as a common denominator amongst all the races and tribes. All of them had some kind of Shamanic culture in their pre-history. Shamanic practices are as old as humanity itself, for they express the primordial core of human consciousness. Therefore, in order to experience our own true nature, to reconnect with the very source of our existence, we need to explore the mode of being pertinent to the Shamans of antiquity. There is many a name for such an extraordinary state of being. For over 40 thousand years, Australian Aborigines have been calling it Dreamtime. In my own tradition of Tibetan Shamanism named Bon we use the term Dream Being, which this work is dedicated to.
The wide spectrum of Shamanic traditions finds common ground in the awareness of the interconnectedness of all life as well as the whole existence. The balance and harmony of the elements of nature is represented in the ancient teachings of Medicine Wheel that are well known among Native American, Siberian and other Shamanic cultures.
The Medicine Wheel traditionally includes four elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. The elements symbolize different dimensions of space and time as well as the dimensions of consciousness. We may live in wholeness and integrity as long as we embody all the aspects of the Medicine Wheel in balance and harmony. Thus the mysteries of existence reveal themselves to us through our self-realization.
Since the overwhelming majority of the population lives in their heads nowadays (head being the energy center of the element of Earth), the journey around the Medicine Wheel usually begins with the practices of the element of Earth. This chapter deals with the particularities of the practice of empowerment through working with attention. As each element has its specific passageway, the Earth element’s gateway is the one of attention. The passage through the Gates of Attention signifies the transition from the urge to have attention of others to the urge to be attentive ourselves.
Attention to the aspects of our being that trouble or challenge us enables us to bring life force into such parts of ourselves, be those energy deficient parts of the physical body or some other difficult issues such as psychological, environmental, financial, etc. By reestablishing greater relationships with those particular aspects of our lives facilitates healing and promotes a greater sense of well-being. Just like in a dream, when some dark figure threatens to turn the dream into a nightmare, the most efficient way to address the challenging issue is not to run away, but to face it. When we shed the light of consciousness on the dark figure, it is no longer dark. It may even turn out to be a messenger with an important message from the creator of our dream that we could have not received had we run away from the messenger.
Once we have learnt to dissolve our own energetic chains and stop taking everything so personally, nothing prevents us from experiencing much greater degree of freedom. At the same time, we learn to question the reality that we perceive around us and then give ourselves an affirmation that what we perceive is a dream. This enables us to start relating to everything we perceive as energy (since everything in the dream is made of energy only) as well as learn to feel the flow of that energy and go with the flow of the dream we call life.
A powerful Shaman is capable of committing such feats that others can only dream of. His awareness is enhanced to the point of being totally lucid, or awake to the reality of being the dreamer of the night dreams during the process of dreaming. Thus the Shaman learns to identify not only with all the characters in his dream dramas, but also with the director of the entire play. The training ground for the further advancement of the Shaman’s self-realization is in the world of dreaming where we can be as free and creative as it gets.
The process of self-realization is traditionally taught in the ancient teaching of Qi Dao, or Tibetan Shamanic Qigong. As human beings, we all have an innermost dream and capacity to realize our true nature, and Qi Dao offers us a simple (though not easy) way to experience that.
Let us reiterate once again the four-fold process, only this time in reverse. In order to identify with both the entirety of the creation and its creator, we learn to awaken to the dreamlike nature of our existence. To be able to recognize the true nature of the dream called life, we first learn to be lucid in our night dreams. For the purpose of attaining such an enhanced degree of awareness in our dreams, we simply start questioning reality during our daily practice of remembrance as well as giving ourselves regular affirmations as to the dreamlike nature of it. Since it is much easier to develop such an attitude towards the reality we experience in our daydreams, or visualizations, we first of all practice meditation, when we go on imagery Shamanic journeys that initiate the whole practice of Dream Being. That is right, we may call the practice of Qi Dao the practice of Dream Being, too. For it is not about doing or having anything in particular, but rather being who we really are.
In regards to the six branches of Qigong, we can see how soon each practice yields its respective benefits. Of course, the benefits of Qigong being practiced for the sake of longevity and immortality become known only after a lifetime of diligent practice. So, we may safely measure that time period by decades. To become a true master of the Martial Arts applications of Qi Dao, we have to practice for quite a few years. The practice of Tantric Qigong may transform and enlighten our intimate relationships in a matter of months. The health benefits of Medical Qigong can become apparent within weeks. Our peacemaking and conflict resolution efforts may yield results in just a few days. Finally, the spiritual awakening happens literally overnight. Indeed, we may come to profound spiritual realizations within hours or even minutes, depending on our karma. How long does it take to read this book?
Naturally, we would need to start with the practice that takes the longest to manifest its benefits. Therefore, we begin our journey by practicing Qi Dao for wellness and longevity, or Taoist branch of Qigong. Then we continue with the Martial applications of Qi Dao, followed by Tantric Qigong, etc. This does not mean that we stop practicing the wellness applications as we engage in the Martial Arts; we just bring our existing practice to the new level of sophistication.
Now, my beloved friend, you may want to ask, ”How and when can I start my practice of Qi Dao?” My answer is: “Now! You are beginning your practice right now by being totally attentive to what you are learning. Nothing is more important for a beginner than learning to be present. This will lead you through the Gates of Attention. Remember?”
If you think about it, nobody can predict his or her future to tell how much time they have to live in this world. There are many natural and manmade causes for leaving this world all of a sudden. Since we never know when we may have to quit dreaming this particular dream, we need to be ready to move on at any time, even today. As long as we consider today a good day to die, we might as well start reviewing our life as it happens in a flash in death. It means that we have a chance to realize the meaning of the dream we call our life during such a simulated flashback.
Obviously, just like with movies, the last episode in a movie may give a greater sense of meaning and purpose to the whole picture. Therefore, with or without the flashback, we can live this particular day more purposefully, so that the entire life would become more purposeful. Even this very moment can be experienced as full of meaning, and, should it be our last moment, it shall enlighten the whole life. So, quit reading and take a deep breath asking the Dream Being for guidance and empowerment on the journey of your own self-realization!